New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Beyond NYU: Switching medicine for music business

CAS alum Mir Hwang co-founded GigFinesse to help emerging artists reach the big stage.
CAS alum Mir Hwang. (Courtesy of GigFinesse)

CAS alum Mir Hwang struggled to balance his love for music and creativity while majoring in psychology and minoring in chemistry on the pre-medical track. During his senior year, Hwang turned his interests into an entrepreneurial venture by co-founding GigFinesse — a concierge booking platform that helps connect small artists and venues for live performances. 

Hwang, whose business partner is his cousin Ryan Kim, earned a spot on the 2024 edition of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list under the consumer technology category. He created the company concept before graduating in 2019, which has helped thousands of artists find opportunities to perform their music and booked $2.4 million worth of revenue in 2022. The GigFinesse team started with just Hwang and Kim in New York, but has grown to over 30 employees, offices nationwide and an office in Seoul, where Hwang was born.

In an interview with WSN, Hwang spoke about how NYU helped him create GigFinesse, the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on his work and the process of turning his love for music into a business.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WSN: What led you to create GigFinesse?  

Hwang: I started applying to every single outlet that NYU had, whether it be the Leslie eLab, the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge or the InnoVention competition. Fortunately, we were able to win all the competitions and we got our start through a lot of the NYU ecosystem. Our first initial mentors and our first initial investors came through that core of people. The community has been extremely supportive. We wouldn’t have been able to get the company up and running without NYU support and resources.

While Hwang said he pursued pre-med at NYU in 2015 due to pressure from his mother to follow a “traditional conservative career path,” he said he was never passionate about that trajectory. While Hwang was born in South Korea, he grew up in Vancouver, where he was a drummer in various bands that backed artists performing in both small shows and nationwide tours. 

WSN: Where did your love for music start? 

Hwang: I really fell in love with music by playing in bands and putting on shows with my friends when I was a teenager. Eventually, because of that, I became a touring session drummer, and I became really intimately familiar with the intricacies and frustrations of booking live entertainment — and shows in general. It wasn’t too long before I really immersed myself into a community of artists who were equally as frustrated and desperate to find better ways to source gigs and perform. 

Hwang eventually moved to the Washington, D.C. area for high school before transitioning to NYU. He said that he was excited to attend a university in New York City so he could nurture his passion for art while pursuing pre-med. While at NYU, he continued his love for music by playing at local clubs.  

WSN: What issues existed in the live music industry that inspired your company?

Hwang: Right around the time when the iPhone came out, all these apps were coming out, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is so inefficient, how we’re going about contacting these venues and booking shows. I’m hoping that someone eventually will figure out a way so that it’s as easy as calling an Uber.’ Fast forward when I was a senior at NYU, nothing had really changed, and there was little to no innovation to be found in this space. In the summer of 2019 my cousin and I decided to go work on GigFinesse full time to really help reshape the live-music landscape.

In the first few months of starting GigFinesse, Hwang and his cousin gradually found ways to increase finances beyond support from NYU. However, just as the business was taking shape in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic “instantaneously wiped out all of the progress” they made, sending them “pretty much back to square one.”  

WSN: What did you do when the COVID-19 pandemic hit? 

Hwang: Instead of pulling the plug, we just decided to deploy the little remaining capital that we had in our last ditch effort. We wanted to see this through, even if it meant it was just for an extra few months. So in 2021, I moved down to Austin with just a suitcase and a backpack. I sublet a University of Texas at Austin dorm room basically for $250 a month and that’s all I could afford. I was going on foot, going door to door and trying to talk to more customers. I was tutoring chemistry during the day to pay the bills because the company was not making any money and this was really a do-or-die test for us.

Once pandemic restrictions eased, Hwang moved back to New York and resumed work on GigFinesse in 2022, which is when he says the business truly launched. Last year, over 50 people maintained jobs as full-time musicians on GigFinesse and there are currently tens of thousands of users on the platform, according to Hwang.  

Hwang aspires to grow GigFinesse into an international platform so that it becomes a platform for anyone in the live entertainment industry, either as an artist or a venue. Hwang also said he tries to continue supporting NYU as much as he can. He is currently a founder in residence at the university’s Entrepreneurial Institute, where he mentors students as they create their own startups. 

WSN: What have been the biggest takeaways for you from running GigFinesse? 

Hwang: We are very lucky to be in this position. How many people really get an opportunity to work on something that they’re genuinely passionate about and pursue that on a full-time basis? We make it easier and cheaper for venues to hire and have quality entertainment and vice versa, for a lot of these great musicians to find more consistent opportunities. I remember last Christmas, we received over 50 handwritten letters saying, thanks to GigFinesse, I was able to quit my day job and get to pursue music full time. Things like that ultimately are what keep us really grounded and what keep us going.

Contact Aashna Miharia at [email protected].

Leave a comment
About the Contributor
Aashna Miharia
Aashna Miharia, Deputy News Editor
Aashna Miharia is a first-year studying journalism and public policy with a minor in business studies. She’s from the Boston area and a novelist, coffee enthusiast and lover of independent bookstores. You can usually find her listening to an audiobook while wandering around New York City or on Instagram @aashnamiharia.

Comments (0)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *